2012's The Raid was one of the most efficient action films ever made,… More2012's The Raid was one of the most efficient action films ever made, eschewing deep characters and story in favor of numerous action sequences. And the only reason it was made was because the writer/director, Gareth Evans, was unable to secure funding for his first-choice project.
As it turns out, The Raid 2 was that project. After the success of the first one, and a few story changes to integrate the surviving characters, Evans has finally made the movie he always wanted. And it shows.
The Raid 2 is superior to the first in almost every way. The story is far more intricate this time, a tale of two major crime syndicates teetering on the brink of war. The action scenes have been enhanced as well, bigger in scale than anything in the first movie, and considerably more brutal. Suffice it to say that the squeamish need not apply.
The Raid 2 is better written, better acted, and better filmed than The Raid, and is the best action film I have seen in recent memory. I will be very, very surprised if The Raid 2 doesn't end up in the list of my top three movies of 2014.
I was not the biggest fan of the first Captain America film. It looked… MoreI was not the biggest fan of the first Captain America film. It looked great, and featured some fine acting, but it lacked some of the energy that had characterized Marvel movies up to that point.
Cap's second standalone film improves in almost every way. When there isn't action there's suspense, both of which are managed very efficiently. Though it's hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the plot, it can and must be said that it's hard for me to imagine any of Marvel's Phase 2 films having this much of an impact on the canon.
Rather than being a straight-up actioner like its predecessors, The Winter Soldier is a successfully hybridized action-thriller, with mysteries and cold stares abound.
All this adds up to what is arguably the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, possibly even beating The Avengers or Iron Man. Guardians of the Galaxy, along with every other MCU film between now and 2015, has some mighty big shoes to fill.
Movies based on video games don't exactly have the best track record… MoreMovies based on video games don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to quality. The best of the bunch can be described as okay at best, and the worst ones are generally listed among the worst films of all time. Need for Speed certainly doesn't buck the trend, but it's definitely better than the vast majority of its brethren.
I'm a big fan of the game series on which this film is based. The plot (a race across the country to clear one's name) is taken straight from The Run, one of the better games in the franchise. It makes for some genuinely cool stunts, some visceral destruction, and the occasional race. But where this movie falls horribly short is the dialogue. This movie has more than its fair share of cringe-worthy lines, which not even the perfectly competent acting can cover up. For those unable to bear the wait for the seventh Fast & Furious movie, this is an okay stopgap, but nothing more.
The first 300 is famous for being one of the most divisive films in… MoreThe first 300 is famous for being one of the most divisive films in history, polarizing critics with its sumptuous visuals, relentless violence, and sometimes-dubious script. Now, the better part of a decade later, the series is back, and it hasn't changed much at all. If you enjoyed the original, you'll probably like this one. If not, steer clear.
That said, I enjoyed Rise of an Empire more than its predecessor, for two main reasons. The first is that I didn't know how it would end. Even before 300 came out, people knew about Thermopylae and the futile last stand that happened there. It made it too difficult to invest in the characters, and essentially forced me to sit drumming my fingers until their inevitable death. This was, fortunately, not the case here.
The second reason is Eva Green. Best known for her breakout role in 2006's Casino Royale, her performance in Rise of an Empire ranges from terrifyingly understated to unintentionally comic, and steals the spotlight at every opportunity. But even she cannot hold up this movie by herself, since the film, for all its merits, relies on little more than its visual effects and art direction.
For whatever reason, Liam Neeson has decided to make himself a new… MoreFor whatever reason, Liam Neeson has decided to make himself a new action star. Since this decision was made, most of the actioners he's been in have been, at best, slightly above-average. NonStop, from the director of Unknown (another Liam Neeson action film), is no exception.
The setup is actually a fairly interesting one. Neeson, an Air Marshal, boards a flight on which someone will die every twenty minutes unless he gives the unknown perpetrator $150 million. The claustrophobia that comes with the setting works well for this type of film, and there are no fewer than fifteen passengers that are presented as potential terrorists. People begin to drop without any apparent cause, the absurdity of the plot growing in direct proportion to the body count. Though the atmosphere is impeccable, the revelation of the cause and reason of the killings is just... stupid. There's really no other word for it. Overall, it's another slightly-above average Liam Neeson action movie.
Luc Besson, the famous French action aficionado (and writer of 3 Days… MoreLuc Besson, the famous French action aficionado (and writer of 3 Days to Kill), has never been known for making his films especially deep. This is, after all, the guy who made The Transporter, Lockout, and last year's The Family. He's good at action, not so much at dialogue or storytelling.
The same holds true here. 3 Days to Kill tries to be several different things at once: a family drama, a love story, and a spy thriller all in one. But these many facets fail to come together into something good. It's made fairly well, and the acting is serviceable all around. But the plot is so cliched that it quickly becomes a bore, to a degree that the family-relationship sections come off as more eye-rolling than they should.
And really, there's not much else to say. It's a competent film built on the foundations of hundreds that have come before. And if you don't mind watching a few of those again, give 3 Days a try. But if you don't, I don't blame you.
Unlike most people, I don't hold the 1987 original in very high… MoreUnlike most people, I don't hold the 1987 original in very high regard. It's true that it had something to say, and was plenty well made, but any semblance of a message got lost in the over-the-top violence. As to whether I prefer this newer, slicker, tamer version? I'd have to rewatch the original, but for now, I'd say that I do.
The plot is pretty much the same: cop is almost killed in the line of duty, thinly-veiled clandestine corporation rebuilds him in the name of liberty and justice for all, etc. Really, there's not a whole lot more about the plot (or the rest of the film) without veering into spoiler territory, but there are one or two twists and turns that, while utterly predictable (even to those who have not seen the original), are acted and presented well enough. The action is sleek and spare, never reveling in the bloodshed the way its predecessor did, so points for that. But at the end of the day, it's really just another actioner that genre fans should see, but everyone else should merely consider.
Who doesn't love Legos? For more than a century, kids and adults alike… MoreWho doesn't love Legos? For more than a century, kids and adults alike have been transforming these humble blocks into whatever they can imagine, from X-Wings to The Tower of Babel. And while these toys have been transmuted into art, literature, and video games, they had not yet been depicted in film (at least, not theatrically).
Well, their time has come at last, and the result is a wildly imaginative and thoughtful film, with all-star voice talent and breathtaking animation. Making excellent use of the various Lego product lines (this is probably the only time you'll see Han Solo and Batman in the same movie), The Lego Move tells a charming tale of how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, all the while providing slapstick gags and in-jokes to hilarious effect.
This film's major flaws are those that are common among animated features: its silliness can get excessive at times, and some gags are used too many times to retain their comedic value. But overall, this is a very good movie, and one truly made for all ages.
Peter Berg has an unsteady track record, to say the least. Having… MorePeter Berg has an unsteady track record, to say the least. Having directed such masterpieces as Hancock and Battleship, I wasn't exactly bursting with confidence when I saw his name on the bottom of the poster.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Though Lone Survivor is unquestionably heavy-handed in its message and storytelling, it is also an emotional, visceral look into one of the U.S. military's most infamously botched operations.
As you could probably tell from the title, only one of the four members of SEAL Team 10 is left standing by the end. But in the time I saw them, it was a bit too difficult to really care about them. Sure, each one had their own charm, but none of them (even Mark Wahlberg's character) really felt like people; just weapons that happened to misfire in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
For what it's worth, however, the film is well-written, and the final fifty minutes are nothing short of spectacular. Just don't walk in expecting Saving Private Ryan.
I really can't remember the last time I went to see an action film in… MoreI really can't remember the last time I went to see an action film in the theater. It's a genre that has just fallen out of my interest, as they all seem to be the same combination of bland writing and been-there-done-that violence. Based on what I knew of the plot and the names behind it, I expected Shadow Recruit to be a smarter-than-average, but still by-the-numbers take on the famed Tom Clancy character. I got what I expected, and not much else, really.
To its credit, Jack Ryan makes a pretty good first impression. Chris Pine (Kirk from 2009's Star Trek), Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh directing, and the writer of Schindler's List. What emerges from this pool of venerable talent is, at heart, just another action-thriller, with the requisite fistfights, car chases, and race against the clock. It's all very well-done, to be sure, with fine performances and some snappy dialogue punctuating the occasional monotony. Fans of the genre or source material, or just the casual filmgoer, will have a good time. But it doesn't come without a cost.